HILO — Lava from Kilauea volcano’s lower East Rift Zone continues to inch its way along the lower Puna coastline toward Isaac Hale Beach Park and Pohoiki boat ramp.
“The ocean entry has expanded to the west, about 750 meters (820 yards) from the boat ramp. The laze plume is directly over the boat ramp,” said Janet Snyder, spokeswoman for Mayor Harry Kim, on Tuesday.
The county beach park and state-run boat ramp are adjacent to each other.
Stephen Schmelz, Hawaii Island branch manager for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation, estimated the lava, if it maintains its current course and speed, could overtake Pohoiki and Isaac Hale park within the next few days.
“It would be a significant loss for the people of lower Puna and the Pahoa areas, as Pohoiki is not only popular as a launch ramp for small boats, it is used by a variety of ocean recreational users,” Schmelz said.
DOBOR officials had preliminary discussions about new ramp options should the flow overtake Pohoiki. Any plans would hinge on road access being restored and available funding.
“We are extremely mindful of the importance of Pohoiki for local people and, as with everything related to Kilauea’s current eruption, we need to be patient and see what develops in the future,” Schmelz said.
Concerned citizens posting on social media indicated that turtles are trapped in the Pohoiki area. On Tuesday and during an earlier flight by the Hawaii Fire Department, no turtles were seen.
Joining the aerial assessment of the East Rift Zone on Tuesday was Steve Bergfeld, Hawaii Island branch manager for the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife.
Bergfeld reported little has changed in Malama Ki Forest Reserve, just to the south of Pohoiki, since his previous assessment of that area. About half of the reserve burned when lava inundated it in the early weeks of the current eruptive event, which began May 3. No new land has recently been lost, but trees in the reserve have been defoliated.
“Much of the vegetation is defoliated and stressed from the eruption. We are hopeful that the flora and fauna will recover because they have evolved over time with volcanic activity,” Bergfeld said.
According to Snyder, the county’s Highways Division placed a steel plate over a crack in the Volcano Golf and Country Club road and a sign to let drivers know the crack is there.
She said Kim “asked people to be aware of unusual things like cracks in the road (and) utility poles that are a little tilted, just because he wants people to be aware of conditions, with all these quakes that are taking place in Volcano.”
Fissure 8 continued to erupt lava into the perched channel leading northeastward from the vent. Despite no visible surface connection to the fissure 8 channel, lava continued to ooze out at several points on the 3.7-mile-wide flow front into the ocean. Explosions were reported from the main ocean entry Tuesday morning, with at least one being quite strong.
According to the National Weather Service, a weak area of low-pressure tropical disturbance was about 650 miles southeast of Hilo as of Tuesday. NWS said there is a 20 percent chance it will become a tropical cyclone. The front is moving westward between 10 and 15 mph and is expected to pass about 350 miles south of the Big Island, but showers and increased winds are forecast to occur starting today.
Heavy rains and high wind gusts of up to 25 mph are expected in the Puna area. This could cause various issues at the shelters, including evacuee tents and tarps being damaged or destroyed.
Last Saturday, heavy rains caused the Pahoa evacuation shelter to be inundated to the point that shelter roads were flooded and inaccessible. Similar effects could occur today.
Snyder said county Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno said those who remained in Leilani Estates should anticipate dead albizia trees falling if winds increase significantly.
The Disaster Recovery Center remains open seven days a week at Keaau High School gym. Hours are 8 a.m.-6 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m.-4 p.m. on weekends.
As of Monday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency had registered 2,240 people seeking disaster relief and approved $3,909,643 in funding.
A community meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at Pahala Community Center to discuss the effects of explosive events and emissions from Halema‘uma‘u crater in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
The U.S. Geological Survey will provide a presentation. Staff from Civil Defense, the state Highways Division and the county Department of Public Works will be on hand as well to discuss roads and evacuation routes.
The issues of sheltering and personal preparedness also are on the agenda.
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.